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Monday, August 31, 2009

Covers Really Do Sell Books, Or So A Teenager Told Me

So I was at a baby shower this weekend—my third this summer not including a Christening. (It’s what I do. Some people go down the shore on weekends, I go to showers and help with gift openings.) But at the shower I met a very cool girl who was getting ready to enter high school and who had read my Amor and Summer Secrets series. We got to talking and for one brief and shining moment I was let behind the curtain of what compels a teen reader to pick up a book.

First, let me say I have to be the only adult she’s ever met who knows more about the YA books she’s read than she does. We had a lengthy conversation about whether Twilight—the books, the movies, and the actors—are overexposed. (We voted yes on all counts, though we had each reread the books several times and love them.) Then she told me she loved the Gallagher Girl books by Ally Carter, and I of course told her that my WIP is also about spies and that I’m so excited about it.

And then we inevitably landed on the standard book conversation, “Have you read this? Have you read that?” And I noticed a trend. For each book one of us mentioned, the other had either read it or could describe the cover.



For example, she asked if I had read Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver. I hadn’t but I knew it was about a werewolf romance and I knew it had branches on the cover. You know what she said, “I know! I love the cover! It’s what made me pick it up.” Then she told me she loved my cover, because she thought the “holes” were cool (thanks!). She asked if I had read Shug by Jenny Han, which I haven’t but I knew it had a red Popsicle on the cover. Then she told me she saw a really cool cover with an image of chocolate candies, and I told her the book was Artichoke’s Hearts by Suzanne Supplee (whom I’ve met and is really sweet).




Then, that’s when she said it.


“You know, I really do buy books based on their covers. If it’s a cool cover, I’ll pick it up. But if I don’t like the cover, I won’t even read the back.”

I knew it! There it is in a nutshell, folks.

Think of all the months (or years) authors spend slaving on the words inside those covers, and at the end of the day whether or not a teen picks up our beloved works of love often depend more on that random girl in the art department than us. Not that art directors aren’t wonderful, but they could never love your book as much as you do. Yet they have more influence over its success than you ever will.

How many times have authors been disappointed with their covers and then tried to convince themselves that it didn’t really matter much. I know I’ve heard those horror stories. Just look at Justine Larbalestier’s cover controversy.

So the next time you see a teen at a book store thumbing through a few different novels, take a look at the covers on those books because chances are they’re what’s driving the purchase. You might even want to take notes. Because often what’s catching their attention might not be the same thing that’s catching ours.

POP CULTURE RANT: The Daytime EmmysYay, Julie Berman (Lulu) won! And so did the General Hospital writers! I had almost forgotten about Lulu’s stint at Shadybrook until I saw her nomination clip. She so deserved it. And I must admit that it was kind of sad to watch the tribute to Guiding Light. I grew up watching that show with my grandmom (my dad’s mom). It’s one of the strongest memories I have of her. (Watching soap operas is how my grandmom learned to speak English. You can imagine how that affected her vocabulary.) I remember when Rick Hearst (Ric) from General Hospital played Allen Michael on Guiding Light. And when Hayden Panettiere (Heros) played Phillip Spalding’s daughter. And when Melina Kanakaredes from CSI NY played Eleni. And when Vincent Irizarry, David Hayward from AMC, played Lou Jack. Man, Guiding Light is up there with Sesame Street in my childhood memories. And you wonder why I still watch soaps.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Cocktail Parties Make Me Run For The Hills

I’m not a shy person. At least not in the traditional sense. I talk too much to be considered shy. My teachers used to move my desk around in middle school because I wouldn’t shut up (though I still got good grades). And by the end of the year, I learned what a 360-kick flip-shove it was from a skateboarding kid; who thought their older sister was pregnant; and what the band-couple wanted to name their first-born child (Alyssa).


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I also laugh really loud. And in general, quiet people kind of freak me out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a shy streak. Specifically, my shyness is directly connected to cocktail parties. Not the awesome ones that your friends throw before weddings, but the ones that are dull, gray and work related.

It stems from my days as a magazine reporter. I used to get sent to all these conferences around the country, held in bland hotel banquet rooms (which is why I refused to be married in one), and comprised solely of bald men wearing suits. I was a 22-year-old female. And I knew no one there.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was fresh out of college, living way above my means in Manhattan, and knew how to appreciate free booze and appetizers when I saw them. But I loathed standing in a room of thousands and having absolutely no one to talk to.

It would get so bad that I used to call my now-husband on my cell phone just so I could look busy while I was drinking my free beer (I didn’t drink wine in those days either, so a girl holding a beer just added to my freakishness).

Flash forward about a decade and now I’m being asked to join author societies. These are wonderful groups that support writers, provide resources, and in general attempt to create a welcoming community for a bunch of professionals who usually work alone. So last year, I joined SCBWI (http://www.scbwi.org/). I dabbled in the message boards, applied for one grant, but in general I didn’t really utilize what the group had to offer.

Namely, I didn’t attend a single event. Not one. And the Eastern PA chapter is rather active. And that big conference they have in NYC—I didn’t go. I’d like to say it was because of the cost or because I was swamped with work, but really it was because of the cocktail parties.

Now, I know a lot of writers virtually. We correspond via Twitter or MySpace or blogging groups. But I haven’t met many of them in person. And the idea of walking into this massive hotel full of people in suits and having no one to talk to just brought back too many bad flashbacks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I’m shy when I don’t have a “buddy” to hang out with at events.
And now I’ve made the decision to rejoin SCBWI. They have this great new speakers bureau that I found enticing and a new social networking component, and of course I was sent all the information about the NY Conference. It’s in January.

I’ve got four months to decide whether this will be the year I kick my fear of cocktail parties. And I really don’t know. I mean, if I could do this what’s to stop me from killing my own bugs? Or getting a pet spider? Maybe I could talk them into doing a Fear Factor SCBWI edition? It could work.

POP CULTURE RANT: Mad Men
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Is it just me or is Don Draper starting to get a little creepy? I mean, in the first season all of his womanizing was intriguing. You were trying to imagine what life was like then, what families were like, and you got sucked in by the oddity of it all. But now that they’ve developed his wife’s character, I find his wondering eye kind of gross. And I don’t get the point of the British parent company. I liked when all the Madison Avenue stuff was about accounts for Utz and Kodak. I’m not so much into the corporate politics. I have The Office for that. (What? There are politics there. Remember the political correctness episode?)
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Designed to Sell, And Designed to Write

If this writing thing ever falls through, I swear I could have a killer career hosting HGTV’s Designed to Sell. Yeah, you heard me Clive Pearse. I’m coming for your job. Just because you’ve got a fancy British accent, doesn’t mean this Philly girl can’t do just as good of a job teaching desperate homeowners how to declutter and repaint.

Okay, seriously, I may not be destined for a career in television, but I can stage a house. My own house that is. Yup, we’re selling. We heard all those headlines about the real estate crash and the bubble bursting and thought, “Hey, why not join in the fun?”

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So coming the week after Labor Day, our little home in Philadelphia will officially be on the market.
And what does any good HGTVer do when preparing to sell their house? They go look at “comps.” That’s “comparable houses” for those not-in-the-know. So my realtor, whose office is a block from my home, is taking me out today to tour other tiny trinities in the city.

Now, I’ve talked about my house before. It’s 177 years old, it has its original floors and original fireplaces (one works!), and it’s most likely haunted. Kidding. Sort of.

It’s also built in a style called a “Trinity.” This means it’s a) small; b) has only one room per floor; c) incredibly vertical; and d) will eliminate your need to ever use a StairMaster again. (My cat’s never been so muscular.)

But it also has nearly 200 years of character. You can’t buy my floors, folks—they’re made of this wood called “heart pine” that was once used to build log cabins, that currently floors George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and that is pretty much extinct now. Trust me, they’re awesome.

We once brought a board into a hardware store to find a nice matching threshold for the entrance to our bathroom, and the store’s sales guy said, “Damn, where did you get that?” See, I told you. Now, you may be be wondering how we were able to bring a board with us to the store. And yes, a few are a little loose. But hey, that’s called “historic” and “charming.”


And so, dear readers, if any of you are looking to move to Philadelphia and would like a lovely starter home on a quiet picturesque tree-lined block, let me know. Maybe one day I’ll come back to visit like J.K. Rowling and say, “this is where I wrote my first book.” And then I’ll wipe away a tear as Barbara Walters provides the voiceover to my "emotional journey." Either that, or the Clive Pearse thing. One or the other.

Also, if you'd like to win a copy of Amor and Summer Secrets, head on over to author Melissa Walker's blog. She's giving away a SIGNED copy as this week's Win-It Wednesday competition. All you need to do is leave her a comment. Good luck!

POP CULTURE RANT: Project Runway

So how are you all feeling about the move to Lifetime? Personally, I find it a tad weird. That, the switch to L.A., and the fact that this seems to have been filled during last year’s Emmy Awards (unless this year’s Emmy’s have already rolled out the red carpet and are just waiting a few weeks for the stars to show up). Though I did appreciate seeing Lohan all happy and sober. And I think the “Models on the Runway” spin-off is a good idea. It shows that these models are actually real women and not paper dolls who shouldn’t be allowed to speak or care that their dreams are also being crushed by odd silver tinfoil dresses. So I’m giving Lifetime a shot. Watch, next I’ll be blogging about the Tori Spelling latest made-for-TV movie.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Special Gift Is "Teen Movies," and A Colbert Update

So I was down the shore last week. (That’s what the Jersey beaches are called. The “shore.” Not the beach. You don’t have a beach house; you have a shore house. And you always go “down” there. Don’t ask me why.) Of course, there were a few highlights, like the sun, the sand, and the surprisingly warm ocean water, but none trumps going to my first ever Quizzo bar game and getting the category of “teen movies.”



You know that scene in every Scooby Doo cartoon when he inevitably gets surprised and makes that Scooby sound? That was me when that category was announced.

Because barring young adult novels, which I doubt will ever be a Quizzo category, “teen movies” pretty much encapsulates my knowledge base. You want to know the percentage of Americans incarcerated, ask the Ph.D.s at our table. But you want to know which teen movies starred Judd Nelson, I’m your girl.

As soon as the category was announced, the entire table turned to me as if I were Yoda, and my husband said, “She will nail this.” Under that amount of pressure a girl could crack like a sleep-deprived teen at the SATs, but I’m happy to report that I got 9 out of 10 right (with the ninth answer actually coming to me after we turned in our entry, but before the answers were announced. So I count it, because we could have changed our answer but didn’t). And we won the category, free T-shirt and all!

Here are the questions I’m most proud to have nailed (answers are at the bottom of the blog):
1. Teen movie featuring an ‘L’ train.
2. Teen movie featuring Ron Howard.
3. Teen sports movie based on a book written by a Philadelphian (this is the one that came to me late).

Here’s the one question I missed:
4. Teen movie that won an Oscar and has only one word in the title.
(I’ll give you an added hint that we weren’t given: it’s way more recent, which is why my brain wasn’t on its wavelength.)

And of course the rest of the trip was fabulous. We stayed in a huge house with my husband’s family including his grandmom and three little kids (actually three and a half, if you count the one in my sister-in-law’s belly). We mini-golfed, ate ice cream, went boating, grilled, the whole works. Lots of family fun.

Now, on to some other news. While down the shore, my college roommate emailed me to inform me that her cousin knew someone who knew someone who happened to be on Stephen Colbert’s website and saw MY VIDEO on the homepage!!







I had no idea. By the time I learned about it, it was posted under items that were “added last week.” But it was one of the only items there that wasn’t a direct clip of Colbert during his show. So all our campaigning worked, folks!

Madam Colbert has officially been introduced to Stephen Colbert. And he clearly must’ve liked it if he added it to his homepage! Thanks for all your help!

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
Are you all ready for some Sexico in Mexico? Come on, I know there had to be other Sam fans out there who were dying when they played “the song” a week or so ago when she was in the car with Jason. Now she’s acting all Florence Nightengale to his bullet wounds, you know what’s coming next! Though is anyone else wondering why Sam wouldn’t just take Jason to a hospital? Is there a reason they’re avoiding the Mexican authorities? Because I’m pretty sure you could have internal injuries after a building falls on you, and a few antibiotics wouldn’t hurt. But whatever, I won’t over think it.

Quizo Answers:
  1. Risky Business (the sexy train scene)
  2. American Graffiti
  3. Friday Night Lights
  4. Juno

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dogs Prepare A Protest At The Linc

Apparently, according to legend, 40 years ago Eagles fans threw snowballs at Santa. It’s a little piece of a folklore that has followed our fair team every time a player is (most often justifiably) booed. Then, about ten years ago, some Phillies fans threw batteries at an opposing player who had snubbed us. That same year, Eagles fans cheered when Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was injured on the field.
We’ve booed, we’ve fought, we even had an “Eagles Court” built into our former stadium to deal with unruly fans. And it is because of our checkered and passionate history that I have faith our fans will rally together to make dog-abusing Michael Vick’s entrance into our city memorable.
Now, let me be clear. I love football. I love the Philadelphia Eagles. I even named some characters in my WIP after my favorite players.
But I also loved my black miniature poodle, Satch, who died at the tender age of 17. He was a good dog. He'd cry when we’d leave the house. He’d sit on the reclining chair with my mom every night. And he’d jump like a gymnast on a trampoline whenever you touched his leash. He was a little person: he had emotions, a personality, and could clearly express what he liked and disliked.
And I think anyone who can take pleasure in torturing, murdering, and abusing dogs is sick. Pure and simple. There is something wrong in your brain if you feel no empathy for a dog crying in pain.
This is not a sport. This is not a cultural difference. Dog fighting is wrong. It’s obviously and disgustingly wrong.
And I am offended that Michael Vick will be playing for the Eagles.
Now I know there are people, like Donovan McNabb, who think Vick served his time and should be able to get back to his life. And there are those like Andy Reid who think everyone deserves a second chance.
I’m not denying those two things. I just don’t think that violent ex-cons should get multimillion contracts to be role models. And definitely not in my city.
Michael Vick has tainted my team. He’s made it hard to root for a sport that I love because any win with him feels wrong.
And so, Philadelphians, if we can make legendary stories out of snowballs and booing, I hope we can make a legendary welcome for this dog-abuser. And I am absolutely, in no way, suggesting anything violent--that would go against the very point of the demonstration. But I’m sure there are a few soft and squishy velcro dog collars out there that if the wind is blowing just right could make it onto the field.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Get Witchy with GCC Member Megan Kelley Hall

I’m so thrilled to host my Kensington sister, Megan Kelley Hall, whose new book The Lost Sister just debuted! (Get it, sister-sister? Insert groan here.) The first book in Megan’s Sisters of Misery series released to wicked reviews, so I know you’re all dying to find out how these witches from Massachusetts get scared straight. (Insert second groan). But seriously, Megan is an amazing author and if you haven’t read her books, you need to start now. You haven’t seen teen hazing until you’ve seen it gothic style.

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

Sisters are born, not chosen…
Maddie Crane is grappling with the disappearance of Cordelia LeClaire, and trying to escape the grasp of The Sisters of Misery—an insidious clique of the school’s most powerful girls, whose pranks have set off a chain of horrific events, and who have Maddie in their sights…

Beware the sister betrayed…
Now in a prestigious boarding school far away from her mysterious hometown of Hawthorne, Massachusetts , Maddie feels free from danger. But when an unmarked envelope arrives at her dorm containing a single ominous tarot card, Maddie realizes with terror that some secrets won’t stay buried. Knowing she must return to Hawthorne—a town still scarred by the evil of the Salem witch trials—Maddie prepares to face the fears of her past...and the wrath of the sister she wronged.

Here’s what Megan had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Megan: No. Well, let’s see. Give me a piece of juicy gossip and we’ll see how long it takes to hit the Internet. Just kidding. But, in all seriousness, I’m terrible at keeping secrets. Terrible.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Megan: I spent three weeks on the French Riviera, which was totally wasted on a 13 year old, because I was pining away for a lifeguard back home, who clearly had no interest in me. (I still get flutters in my stomach when I hear his name – shhh, don’t tell my husband.). On that trip we visited a medieval town called St. Paul de Vence. We kept running into Tom Hanks and his new bride Rita Wilson. Since the town keeps wrapping around, we kept passing him until the third or so pass, he waved to us and said “Oh, my old friends.” Of course we had to have a picture taken with him.

Okay, that is the most awesome story ever. First, I’ve been to St. Paul de Vence and it’s awesome. And second, Tom Hanks is the personification of awesome. I’d love to meet him. Wilson!

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Megan: I live next to Salem , Mass, so witches and psychics are commonplace. I’ve visited them now and again and never heard anything but very general stuff. One weird thing that happened to me was I played with a Ouija Board in college and it told me I’d marry someone named Ed. I only knew one Ed at the time, and I didn’t really see myself marrying him (no offense, if you’re reading this, Ed.) Anyway, here I am today, happily married to a guy named Eddie Hall. Go figure. But don’t get me started on Ouija boards. They are totally evil and I highly recommend people avoiding them at all costs. Seriously.

My fated visit to the psychic was in Salem! Gotta love it!

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Megan: I’m Greek, Italian, and Irish. Quite a mix. No one can ever tell what my nationality is. My daughter is Greek, Italian, Irish, French Canadian, English and Scottish. She looks like the All-American girl. Go figure. I went to Greece when I was four and all I remember was sitting on a really hot stone burning my butt while my parents took pictures. I also remember my first and last time using an outhouse. It was basically a shack in the Greek countryside with a hole dug in the ground. There was also a chicken nesting in the corner. I had nightmares for weeks.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Megan: My heart stopped – literally! I was at home recovering from open heart surgery! I definitely had a bumpy road toward publication. I had series of mini-strokes, lost partial vision in one eye, and had a carotid stent. It was a nine hour procedure where they basically flatlined me for 96 minutes. After I was “fixed” (turns out the medical problems stemmed from radiation treatment I received when I was a baby with cancer), I was forced to do basically nothing for three months because I had to let my sternotomy wounds heal. It was at that time that I realized that even though I had written for some national magazines like American Baby, Parenting, Working Mother and even Boston Magazine, I’d never written for a major women’s magazine and I’d never published a book. So I used that time to revamp the book I’d been toying with for years and turned the adult suspense MISERY ISLAND into the YA suspense novel, SISTERS OF MISERY.
I realized how precious life was and how if you want something, you really have to go after it (it’s not going to come to you). Using those three housebound months as “work” time, I was able to accomplish the following things within the next year: I finally had a feature article run in Glamour magazine, I got a literary agent from one of the largest agencies in New York, and I got a two-book deal from Kensington Books for the SISTERS OF MISERY series. And to top it all off, my essay about overcoming obstacles was included in former CNN Anchor Daryn Kagan’s anthology entitled, “What’s Possible!” Truly amazing! So….just a typical first book story, I guess.

Thank you, Megan! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Teasers: A Glimpse Inside My Work-In-Progress

So despite Amor and Summer Secrets having been out for almost a year now (can you believe it?), I’m still thrilled to see reviewers who are just discovering it and discussing it now with their readers. Specifically, Renee at Book Girl Review did something I thought was particularly cute. She posted a two-sentence teaser from Amor while she was still in the process of reading it.

It’s a description of Mariana’s brother, Vince. And truthfully, I’ve never seen this quote pulled out on its own before. So it was interesting even for me, the author, to read the lines on their own merit. Here it is:

Amor and Summer Secrets

"It came so naturally to him- the ability to adapt to any situation or, even better, make it more enjoyable. He could have fun at a funeral, if it were socially acceptable."

This gave me an idea to pull some mini quotes out of my WIP. I’ve discussed the never-ending WIP often here on the blog—mostly how it’s been driving me slowly insane. But I’m getting freakishly close to reporting some good news (fingers and toes crossed), that I’ve decided to give you a little peek inside the minds of my characters.



In short, this is a young adult spy novel with lots of action, tragedy, and of course romance. Think Alias meets The Da Vinci Code meets Nancy Drew.

So here goes! The first glimpse inside my massively revised YA novel:

ANASTASIA RISING


Opening line of the book
“Only my sister could turn Mother’s Day into a drinking holiday. Especially given the fact that she wasn’t a mother, and we had no cause for celebration.”
(It must be noted that this by far my favorite opening line of all my novels.)

ANASTASIA and her sister KEIRA
“We argued nonstop about everything from my grades (which tanked from B’s to barely scraping by C’s in a single quarter), to my suspension rate (which alarmingly accelerated due to skipped classes), to Keira’s lost surgical career. We resented each other. We resented our parents. And we resented the Red Sox for winning the World Series and making everyone in the city so damn happy.”

ANASTASIA
--“The most striking trait that I inherited were my smoky gray-blue eyes, which—depending on who you asked—either made me appear perpetually gloomy or a tad mysterious. My sister voted for ‘gloomy.’”

--“I didn’t think. I didn’t pause. I didn’t plan. I forgot everything my master instructors had ever taught me. I simply reacted. I grabbed a handheld silver mirror from the dresser beside the door and flung it like a Frisbee at the attacker’s head.”

--“I felt a sudden pang in my chest. It was strange, but for some reason I had never considered death as a possible outcome.”

CHARLOTTE, Anastasia’s friend
“Charlotte had a bedroom library that consisted of everything from Pride and Prejudice to Advanced JavaScript. She actually read Law Reviews for enjoyment. It was amazing that she was still fun to hang out with.”

MARCUS
“His face was perfect, but frankly hard to focus on while he was half-dressed, especially given the giant black tattoo inked on his neck—a bull with two curved horns and angry eyes. It was hard not to gawk.”

JULIAN
“There was an air of respect that followed him—cab drivers were nicer, waiters more attentive, and I was guessing employees who fell easily in line. I doubted that Julian had much trouble getting what he wanted.”


If I do get some official good news soon, I will post a longer celebratory teaser. I might even skywrite the entire novel, like across America, in Scriptina font, in purple smoke. How’s that for a publicity stunt?


POP CULTURE RANT: Fox Philly

So the finale of So You Think You Can Dance was on last night. And you know I love this show. Even if this season was less than exciting—Is it just me or were the dancers too good yet not as interesting? We need more breakers, but I digress—Last night my crappy local station, Fox Philly, aired too many commercials and thus entirely cut Kayla and Jeanine’s Mia Michaels routine from our broadcast. I’m not kidding. We saw the last ten seconds of it, and that’s it. I googled the situation and discovered that this was, in fact, a Philadelphia-specific problem. So boooooo Fox Philly! I don’t know what was up, but that was a bad call. So for any of my local SYTYCD diehards, I found the clip on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Go Punk Rock With GCC Member Stephanie Kuehnert

If you grew up in the ‘90s or just want to be reminded of how awesome us teens were back then, you should definitely pick up a copy of GCC member Stephanie Kuehnert’s (www.stephaniekuehnert.com) BALLADS OF SUBURBIA http://www.amazon.com/Ballads-Suburbia-Stephanie-Kuehnert/dp/1439102821). It’s chocked for a piercingly honest teen angst and enough 90s music references to make me smile. Plus, I think the cover is pretty cool. Who doesn’t love a plastic riding duck with freaky eyes?


As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:
There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives.
Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

Here’s what Stephanie had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Stephanie: Yes. Well mostly. Unless it’s a really, really personal, important secret, I usually do end up slipping and telling either my fiancé or my best friend.

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Stephanie: I haven’t done any overseas travel, so my favorite place to travel to is Seattle. There is not really a glamorous reason that I love Seattle so much and there isn’t even a particular cool thing that I’ve seen or done while there. Though I did because I’m nerdily obsessed with the band Nirvana track down lots of places they played and stuff. Mostly I just like to go to the Pike Place Market or sit in one of the many beautiful parks or by one of many waterfronts in Seattle.

The coolest thing I ever did traveling wise was probably that I went to New Orleans for Halloween and they had a huge parade on Bourbon street, not quite to Mardi Gras level, but close!


Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Stephanie: I’ve never gone to a psychic, but I have had tarot card readings that have come true and I used to do a lot of tarot. A friend of mine’s mom goes to a certain psychic and trusts her immensely, so if I had money to burn I’d go to her. I believe in that stuff for sure, but I also believe there are a lot of frauds out there.

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Stephanie: I haven’t done much family research. My dad’s side of the family is from Germany, but came over here like around the civil war. One great-great-great uncle got shot for cheating at poker, which I think is pretty Old West and cool. My mom’s side of the family came over from Poland and much more recently. I would love to go to Poland some time and see where my family came from.

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?

Stephanie: With my first book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, I was at work. I got an email from my agent asking me to call her so I went into a vacant office (I was in a cube with no privacy) and called her. We’d been trying to sell the book for a year and had so many almosts that I didn’t believe this was an actual offer. Obviously I didn’t get much work done that day. With my second book, Ballads of Suburbia, I was in St Louis for my brother’s graduation from law school, so it was really fun because we had two big things to celebrate!

Thank you, Stephanie! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Copyright © 2008 Diana Rodriguez Wallach, All Rights Reserved